There’s a new study out that shows what I have known and has already been proven in my life already. And that is psychotherapy or, more specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy helps people with ADHD improve and cope.
The study was conducted by: Steven A. Safren, PhD, ABPP; Susan Sprich, PhD; Matthew J. Mimiaga, ScD, MPH; Craig Surman, MD; Laura Knouse, PhD; Meghan Groves; Michael W. Otto, PhD and is published in Journal of the American Medical Assn. Author Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (Drs Safren, Sprich, Mimiaga, Surman, Knouse, and Otto and Ms Groves); Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (Drs Safren, Sprich, Mimiaga, Surman, and Knouse); and Department of Psychology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts (Dr Otto).
I was absolutely delighted when I received this new study today. If you have read my book One Boy’s Struggle: A memoir – Surviving Life with Undiagnosed ADD, you know then that psychotherapy was a major life changing experience for me. No other treatment has been as effective for me as my therapy sessions with Dr. Gary. I went from the brink of depression and hopelessness to living a more positive, fulfilling life. It’s difficult to describe in a short article how profound the change was for me, but I described it in detail in my book for you as a therapeutic effort no less suggested by my therapist.
Unfortunately, I cannot take medication for my ADHD, sometimes I wish I could, but due to a past severe reaction to an SSRI it is very difficult for me to take any type of stimulant. However, if I could take medication, no matter how effective, it would not be able to teach me skills or give me better insight into who I am, the way I think and why / how I do things. Cognitive behavioral therapy does that and in my opinion anyone who suffers from the raw symptoms of ADHD would benefit. Especially, people like me later diagnosed and have already suffered life-long extreme consequences.
Whether we realize it or not, ADHD pretty much encompasses everything we do behaviorally, it is so much more than just a label and therefore, when we think negative of ADHD, we tend to think negative and depressing thoughts about ourselves. At least, that is what I have learned through therapy. I learned that I can be for me and not against me and I have learned valuable skills via therapy that allow me to thrive with ADHD. I don’t always win when working with my ADHD symptoms; however, when I don’t, I realize that a setback isn’t the end of the world. I do not spiral out of control into self-defeating thoughts recounting every defeat as though I am in a battle against an overwhelming enemy. Because, really, the enemy isn’t a label we have defined (as we may tend to believe), it is ourselves we are punishing, ridiculing and chastising. Such punishment can be far worse than any external punishment from anyone else.
If we receive therapy from a good therapist we can learn that no matter what our condition or disorder, how we think of it has a profound effect on our lives as a whole, how we improve and, as I mentioned, how we truly think of ourselves looking into the mental mirror consciously and subconsciously.
Here’s an example of my belief, before therapy helped me realize my perspective:
My behavior (ADHD) is a curse = I am a curse, life is a curse, everything is a disaster and therefore, I will always suffer and utterly fail. There’s nothing positive about my behavior (ADHD) and, of course, nothing positive about me.
How can one improve, or succeed for that matter, with that type of thinking and belief system? I even went out of my way to prove those things to myself, as we always seek to prove or justify what we think and believe whether it is negative or positive, it’s a natural phenomenon.
We only have one life to live and we are here to try to make the best of it. Positive ways of thinking and coping skills (time management, organization, completing tasks etc) learned through personalized professional therapy can help us do that. There’s no doubt untreated ADHD has devastating consequences and treated ADHD can still be extremely difficult, but what we think and how we think of it is far more profound than many of us may realize.
I truly believe we all deserve more credit than we actually give ourselves. Therapy taught me that. For those who can take ADHD medication, I realize it can possibly change your whole world to a better place and when one adds professional, competent therapy to the mix it can round out the treatment process to make life even more enjoyable and fulfilling. Of course, I am speaking only my opinion and experience here. I can’t give you medical advice, so please visit with a qualified therapist if you want to find out how therapy may help you personally.
Finally, a positive news headline from the Las Angeles Times: